The safety market was slow to get going in this year's iteration of free agency, but it's seemingly in full swing at the moment. The Dallas Cowboys are a big reason why, having met with three safeties last week -- i.e., Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker -- in the hopes of signing two of them to a deal. They quickly agreed to terms with Kearse and, one day later, had the same success with Kazee, and only a week after adding his former Atlanta Falcons teammate Keanu Neal. This all left incumbent free agent safety Xavier Woods out in the, well, woods regarding his value to the club, and the two have now parted ways.
Woods agreed to terms with the Minnesota Vikings on a one-year deal, the team announced. The 25-year-old can earn $2.25 million and signed on for $1.75 million in guaranteed money, sources told CBS Sports. Woods is hoping to up his stock before re-entering free agency a year from now. He and the Vikings had been in talks on more than one occasion, with the team upping its initial offer to get him in uniform.
He joins Chidobe Awuzie as the second defensive back to leave Dallas this offseason, while cornerback .
Woods joins a secondary headlined by the signing of perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson, and will be looked upon to take up the mantle left behind by Anthony Harris, who left Minnesota to sign a one-year deal with Woods' former division rival -- the Philadelphia Eagles. The signing of Woods will mark the sixth defensive grab for the Vikings in free agency thus far, adding to Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, Mackensie Alexander, Stephen Weatherly and Nick Vigil, as head coach Mike Zimmer looks to revamp a unit that allowed 29.7 points per game in 2020 (third-worst in the NFL).
Woods joined the Cowboys as their sixth-round pick in 2017 and showed a lot of promise as a rookie, earning him a starting role in Year 2 -- one he never relinquished. He grabbed five interceptions in his first three seasons, along with three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, at one point leading the team in takeaways. His upward trend came to a screeching halt under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and first-time NFL defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist, however, with a visibly (and audibly) frustrated Woods playing out of sorts in his contract season.
Despite Nolan and Linguist having now been sent packing, the addition of Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr. led to eyes on former Falcons talent in an attempt to upgrade the position -- leaving Woods as the odd man out. Woods started in 15 games last season and he's been active in 60 games over his first four seasons, the latter being a nod to his ability to stay on the field.
Zimmer and the Vikings are looking forward to that, as well as his ability to flex between free and strong safety, while also hoping they can get his best football in the near future.